The 6 Cats of the Leopard Cat Lineage

The Leopard Cat lineage consists of six Asian wild cats – five of the Prionailurus genus, some of which occupy wetland habitats and one cat of the Otocolobus genus which occurs in Central Asia.
The Leopard Cat lineage is the second ‘youngest’ lineage that arose around 6.2 MYA (million years ago) from ancestors that crossed back to Asia from North America during the second ice age, and the resulting species mainly occupy Southern and Central Asia.
Going back further in Felidae evolution, this line descended from ancestors that migrated to North America from Asia following the first ice age 8 to 10 MYA, when the Bering Strait land bridge linked Asia and North America.

1. Fishing Cat

(Prionailurus viverrinus)

Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) - Leopard Cat Lineage

Fishing Cat Fact Sheet

 Fishing Cat Working Group   Urban Fishing Cat Sri Lanka

2a. Mainland Leopard Cat

(Prionailurus bengalensis)

Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) - Leopard Cat Lineage

Leopard Cat Fact Sheet

 Tsushima Leopard Cat   Singapore Research

2b. Sunda Leopard Cat

(Prionailurus javanensis)

In 2017 the leopard cats were split into two species – mainland and island leopard cats, according to the revised Felidae taxonomy.

3. Pallas’s Cat

(Otocolobus manul)

Pallas’s Cat (Otocolobus manul) - Leopard Cat Lineage

Pallas’s Cat Fact Sheet

 Russia Research   Kazakhstan Research

5. Rusty-spotted Cat

(Prionailurus rubiginosus)

Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) - Leopard Cat Lineage

Rusty-spotted Cat Fact Sheet

 Research in India   Wildlife Heritage Foundation UK


Leopard Cat Lineage Classification

In scientific classification (taxonomy) the small Asian wild cats of the Leopard Cat lineage belong to the cat family Felidae and the small cat subfamily Felinae. The higher and lower classifications of this group are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia   (animals)

Phylum: Chordata   (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia   (mammals)

Order: Carnivora   (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia   (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Prionailurus

Species: Prionailurus viverrinus (Fishing Cat)

Species: Prionailurus bengalensis (Mainland Leopard Cat)

Species: Prionailurus javanensis (Sunda Leopard Cat)

Species: Prionailurus planiceps (Flat-headed Cat)

Species: Prionailurus rubiginosus (Rusty-spotted Cat)

Genus: Otocolobus

Species: Otocolobus manul (Pallas’s Cat)

Other small Asian wild cats are grouped under the Felis lineage and the Bay Cat lineage.

Video Clips Taken in the Wild

Fishing Cat Videos
ARKive video - Fishing cat hunting
Leopard Cat Videos
ARKive video - Leopard cat grooming
Pallas's Cat Videos
ARKive video - Pallas's cat - overview
Flat-headed Cat Video

Kinabatangan Wildlife
Sanctuary Video
Rusty-spotted Cat Video

(In captivity)

Wild Cat CourseLeopard Cat Lineage Cat Quiz


1. Which two cat species live in aquatic habitats and have a primarily fish diet?

2. What features about these two cats are similar?

3. Which is one of the smallest cat species of all wild cats?

4. What is very different about the Pallas’s Cat compared to most other cats?

5. Which is the most common small cat in Asia?

6. Which are the most threatened small cats in Asia?

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